Over the last decade the Snack-in-the-Box network has recorded a number
of successes. Gordon Patterson and Gary Rigby interview Director Bill
Gordon Patterson: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary
of Snack-in-the-Box (SITB ). Have you been with the company since the
Bill Owen: I have been fully involved with SITB since
the original pilot business was established as a viable franchising
opportunity. I have been responsible for evaluating and refining the
original model and taking the opportunity to a fully developed national
GP: What kind of interest do you recall receiving 10 years
ago from the franchisee marketplace?
BO: 10 years ago the SITB concept of delivering snacks to the
workplace employing between two and 20 members of staff was unique.
This was, and still is, an opportunity to capitalise on the massive
potential that this niche market offered. It generated tremendous interest
from prospective franchisees throughout the UK and continues to do so.
The scale of the marketplace and the strong association with the powerful
brand name of Cadbury allowed us to recruit over 20 franchisees in just
Gary Rigby: Your relationship with Cadbury seems to
BO: SITB has come to recognise the power of brand association.
Clearly such a well-known and respected brand as Cadbury has allowed
both franchisees and customers to feel confident with the SITB concept
and this has been a major factor in the establishment of our national
As an indication of our commitment to continuing brand association we
have now launched a further franchise with our sister company, VendSetters
in association with Ginsters. This opportunity allows franchisees to
develop their businesses in association with Ginsters, one of the top
10 brands in the UK specialising in sandwiches and savoury pastry products.
Again we are focusing on maximising delivering the Ginsters 'Real Honest
Food' brand to the workplace market via vending machines and mobile
Has the business system evolved or changed much over the years?
BO: Over the years the basic concept of delivering confectionery
and savoury snacks in pre-packed self-service boxes has remained constant.
However we have adapted our product range to cater for the changing
eating habits in the workplace and have developed a much more efficient
data capture and management information system that allows franchisees
to benefit from computer-based systems.
GR: With the benefit of hindsight, would you change much if
you were starting out again?
BO: Probably not a lot. Having identified a massive neglected
marketplace, SITB's unique way of delivering snacks to the workplace
via a method that suits the end user is profitable for all concerned.
The Self-Service Box and later Compact Vending Solutions perfectly satisfy
customer demands and as the concept was tried and tested at the point
at which it was brought to the franchise market, we knew we had a winning
formula. However, the management team has gained a great amount of experience
and knowledge over the last 10 years. This will be fully exploited as
we move, grow and develop Vendsetters.
GP: How many locations do you service in the UK?
BO: SITB franchisees service around 18,000-20,000 repeat customers
every week either with the Self Service Box or Compact Vending Machines.
GR: How do the box and vending franchises complement each other?
BO: We realised very soon after launching our 'box' franchise
that a secondary market existed. This was the medium sized workplace
that was too big for our box service and too small for conventional
vending operators to be interested in. These sites, due to their size,
had previously never qualified for a conventional vending machine. We
therefore developed the 'Slimline Compact' vending machine to satisfy
the needs of companies with 25-100 employees and our vending network
was launched six years ago. We can now offer the complete snack provision
service to two distinct markets in a complementary manner.
GP: You seem to provide strong field support to franchisees
- what does that consist of?
BO: Support is very much key to our success. In addition to
our Sales Director Matthew O'Neil and myself, our Operations Director
Mike Funston heads a team of five field based franchise and support
managers. An additional seven members of our Head Office team are available
to provide support and advice on every aspect of our individual franchisees'
From the moment a new franchisee embarks on a one-week residential training
course at our Head Office we are fully committed to ensuring that his
business is comprehensively launched. This includes a sales campaign
to establish a client base and a full vending machine or box installation
programme to ensure that the franchise is generating a cash income within
a matter of weeks. We are then totally committed to a personalised support
package throughout the duration of the franchise term.
GR: How many franchisees do you now have for both the box and
vending businesses, and is there any room for further development of
the franchise network?
BO: With 65 franchisees operating our box service and a further
45 franchisees looking after 6,000 vending machines, it would be fair
to say that 90 per cent of the UK and Ireland is benefiting from our
service. There are still a limited number of opportunities available
for the SITB service. Our challenge is to maintain thorough support
to all existing franchisees as we move forward in developing another
national franchised network with Vendsetters.
GP: What are the main milestones you would identify in your
business development over the last 10 years?
BO: The initial satisfaction came in the achievement in the
first year of over 20 franchisees successfully recruited. This was followed
by full membership status of the British Franchise Association being
awarded after just three years. The launch of our vending machine franchise
six years ago was particularly important as it allowed us to provide
the 'complete' service to businesses. Perhaps the most important recent
development was in June 2005 when my colleagues Matthew O'Neil and Mike
Funston and I successfully completed a management buyout of Snack-in-the-Box
Ltd as a result of the retirement of the original owners. This has ensured
that the business remains in the hands of the original three members
of the management team who collectively have over 26 years of hands-on
experience with SITB.
GR: Why did you launch the third
BO: During the development of SITB we have demonstrated that
we can build and manage a successful franchised network, we have become
experts in the vending world and have demonstrated that we can maximise
opportunities for a major brand. As a result we have worked closely with
Ginsters, one of the most well known and trusted food brands in the UK,
for over two years in preparation for the launch of our Vendsetters franchise.
This is an opportunity for franchisees to capitalise on the £3,300
million sandwich market by a combination of specially designed vending
machines and a bespoke fully featured mobile delivery vehicle.
GP: What is the market potential for the sandwich business in
BO: There are approximately 27 million people in the British
workplace. The British sandwich market is worth around £3,300 million.
About 19 per cent of sandwiches are purchased at work which means around
£627 million is spent on workplace sandwiches. Only 48 per cent
of workplaces have canteens and that number is diminishing. Therefore
sandwiches are worth £345 million and growing.
GR: What are your further plans for growth and development?
BO: Our immediate objectives are to maintain the current level
of support to our SITB franchisees and to maximise the Vendsetters growth
opportunities. However, having demonstrated the benefits franchising can
offer major brands we are currently in discussions with equally well known
companies to evaluate how best to introduce their products and services